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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Name that French politician

A quick test (no cheating) for those of you who follow French politics and think you (might) know a thing or two.

Try to name some of the faceless wonders and barely memorable people who hold, or have held, a post in government under the current president, François Hollande.

It’s just a bit of “fun” after watching BFM TV presenter Jean-Jacques Bourdin conducting his daily grilling of a French politician. On Wednesday morning it was the minister of justice.

1. And that’s your first question. Who was in the “hot seat”? In other words, who is France’s minister of justice? (clue - it’s no longer Christiane Taubira - and hasn’t been since the beginning of 2016)

2. Who is Juliette Méadel (in other words, what’s her job)? And who is her immediate boss. (clue - she has had her current job since February 2015 indirectly succeeding Nicole Guedj who held the post for a year in 2004-2005)

Juliette Méadel (screenshot Europe 1, September 2016)

3. Who did Matthias Fekl (who?) replace as minister of state for foreign trade, the promotion of tourism and French nationals abroad? (clue - Fekl’s - who? - predecessor spent just one week in the job and is probably best known for his inability to pay bills/rent/taxes)

Matthias Fell (screenshot BFM TV)

4. Harlem Désir. Apart from surely having the coolest of names, what’s his government job (and does he actually do anything apart from draw a nice, fat salary - here’s a piece outlining some of the reactions when he was appointed to his current post in April 2014)

Harlem Désir (screenshot Public Sénat interview, January 2015)

5. Name the minister of state for higher education (clue - if it helps - he replaced Geneviève Fioraso in March 2015).

6. Can you name either of the junior ministers who work under Marisol Touraine, the minister of social affairs and health? (clue - their job titles are, respectively minister of state for disabled people and the fight against exclusion and minister of state for elderly people and adult care. And they’re both women).

7. Who replaced Sylvia Pinel in February 2016 when she left the government to take on more responsibility at a regional level? (clue - her job was split into one holding the housing and sustainable homes portfolio and another one of town and country planning, rural affairs and local government)

8. Three-part question this time.

How many ministers of sport have their been during François Hollande’s stint as president?

Who currently holds the job?

And does he use the same hairdresser as the president (they both seem to go for the badly dyed look)

9. A nice easy one…name the minister of culture and communication (clue - she’s a close friend of Julie Gayet but denies that had anything to do with her getting the job)

10. Finally, when there’s a full cabinet meeting, how many ministers in total are sitting around the table?

Check out the answers below. If you managed to name all the ministers then give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, in the knowledge that you’re probably better informed than many political hacks in France.



1 - the minister of justice is Jean-Jacques Urvoas

2 - Juliette Méadal is minister of state for victim assistance, a post she has held since February 2016. She reports directly to the prime minister, Manuel Valls.

3 - Matthias Fekl replaced Thomas Thévenoud as minister of state for foreign trade and the promotion of tourism in September 2014. Thévenoud was sacked after just one week in the job when it was revealed in Le Canard Enchainé that he suffered from "administrative phobia" and had “forgotten” to pay his rent for three months. Says a fair bit about Hollande’s judgement.

4 - Harlem Désir (gotta love the name) is minister of state for European affairs which, given that he had an appalling attendance record as a member of the European parliament, pretty much makes a mockery of his appointment.

5 - Thierry Mandon is the minister of state for higher education and research - a post the 58-year-old has held since June 2015.

6 - The two women who report directly to Marisol Touraine are Ségolène Neuville (minister of state for disabled people and the fight against exclusion) and Pascale Boistard (minister of state for elderly people and adult care).

7. When Sylvia Pinel resigned from the government in February 2016, her job was split in two. Emmanuelle Cosse took over as minister of housing and sustainable homes while Jean-Michel Baylet became minister of town and country planning, rural affairs and local government.

8 - During Hollande’s presidency there have been three different ministers of sport.

Valérie Fourneyron, May 2012 - March 2014
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem April - August 2014
Patrick Kanner - incumbent minister who, yes, has hair completely the wrong shade of very dark brown for a 59-year-old.

9 - In the February 2016 reshuffle Audrey Azoulay replace Fleur Pellerin as minister of culture. The appointment raised more than a few eyebrows, not only for the way cack-handed way in which the talented Pellerin was “thanked for her time” but also the fact that she way replaced by a woman close to Hollande’s not-so-secret girlfriend, Julie Gayet, and a former advisor to the president.


The current government (including prime minister Manuel Valls) numbers 38.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Laurent Ruquier’s “donkey" views on Donald Trump’s behaviour

And that’s a polite euphemism for what has to be one of the most crass public comments this undeniably intelligent man has made during his television and radio career.

You might not be a fan of Laurent Ruquier, but there’s no denying his work ethic and prodigious output.

Just take a look at his (English) Wikipedia profile, “Television and radio host, producer, and satirical comedian. He is also a lyricist, writer, playwright and producer of shows, and owns his own theatre.”

The 53-year-old is probably best known for his weekly show on France 2 - “On n'est pas couché”.

It’s a talk show - a mix of cultural, social, sport and political elements — in which invited guests are given a grilling (or positive critique, depending on the mood of his two “Rottweiler” co-presenters  - currently Yann Moix and Vanessa Burggraf)

Over the years there have been some pretty heated exchanges, particularly when the two Érics - Zemmour and  Naulleau - worked alongside Ruquier. And some celebrities have refused to appear on the programme to promote whatever book, record or film they had just released or participate in a political discussion.

And then there’s the daily programme on RTL radio “Les Grosses Têtes” in which, since 2014 when he moved to the station from Europe 1,  Ruquier is joined by several members of his (faithful) band of “commentators” to take a light-hearted look at some news items and, in a semi-quiz format, determine which famous figures (past and present) might have uttered particular phrases and compete against listeners in an audience challenge.

Laurent Ruquier (screenshot from RTL radio’s "Les Grosses Têtes")

It’s not meant to be too earnest, although sometimes serious issues can be addressed, albeit in a supposedly good-humoured and good-natured way.

But listening to last Sunday’s special (a round-up of the previous week’s highlights) you will have heard Ruquier come out with the most bizarre of statements.

It was almost (but not quite)  a defence of US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s behaviour after the release of a tape in which he had bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy”, the media reaction there had been to the tape and Trump’s subsequent “locker room talk” apology.

“Heaven knows, I’m not for Trump,” Ruquier said (at around 18 minutes into the programme)…making it easy for listeners to guess that there was about to be some sort of justification for the US presidential candidate’s conduct.

“But frankly I’ll defend him - just a little. I think what was done to him last week was disgusting”, he continued, seemingly swallowing Trump’s line that he had in fact been the “victim”.

“If you take any guy who is talking to another guy and record them while they’re talking about women, there would have been exactly the same result.” (Does that argument sound familiar?)

“And the same is true for two women talking about men.” (Add your own exclamation marks).

Now - purely opinion - and not a particularly well-informed one at that. But where exactly does Ruquier get his valuable information from?

First up - to state the obvious - he’s a man.

So as such, even though he is a gay man, he cannot possibly have had  “all-girl chats” - or even know how they talk about men and/or sex when there’s no man around.

Somehow though, he seems not to have grasped that fact - because…?

Well, you answer it.

Then there’s the locker-room talk aspect: as though such language and behaviour is somehow acceptable, excusable, understandable and…whatever this might mean… “normal”.

The two women invited to participate in that particular edition of the show, former Brazilian model turned TV presenter Cristina Cordula and US-born French, singer, actress, director and model (gasp - a “multi-talent”) Arielle Dombasle weren’t entirely (to put it mildly) in agreement with his “analysis”.

But, for the sake of humour and entertainment, their views were dismissed by the show’s host and the other male panellists as they, in time-honoured tradition, maintained that women’s conversations were “just as bad, if not worse.”

M Ruquier - from one man to another, might I suggest that you keep away from a subject about which you can have little or no real knowledge and, while you’re at it, take a listen to the speech US first lady Michelle Obama made in New England last Thursday.

Just in case you missed it, here it is…. in its entirety.

It should, hopefully, make you realise that not only are you very wrong. It might also help you understand that a microphone and a celebrity status do not give you the right to express views that are so ill thought-out and have no substance.
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